Star Trek 3.2: The Enterprise Incident

The Enterprise IncidentThe Enterprise Incident” is a spy thriller that begins with a mystery: Why is Captain Kirk acting so strangely, snapping at his crew and giving reckless orders that would ordinarily see him relieved of command on psychiatric grounds? McCoy begins the episode with a medical log observing Kirk’s irrational behaviour, immediately opening the question of why McCoy doesn’t act on it.

Kirk orders the Enterprise across the Romulan Neutral Zone and into Romulan space, where it is quickly “surrounded” by 3 Romulan ships. How exactly 3 ships can “surround” another ship in 3-dimensional space is not explained. Furthermore the Romulans are now using Klingon-designed ships, for no readily apparent reason other than the Klingon ships look cooler. (Apparently there was a dispute with the builder of the original Romulan ship model, and the producers wanted to show off the Klingon ships more.) This implies things between the Romulans and Klingons that are never explored again as far as I know.

Romulan Subcommander Tal orders Kirk and Spock to beam over for surrender negotiations, offering two Romulans as a hostage exchange. They meet the Romulan commander, who is shockingly a female. She throws Kirk in the brig, where he throws himself against the force door and injures himself, watched by a Romulan guard who is wearing incredibly amusing knee-length blue shorts. Meanwhile Spock engages in some weird alien seduction/courtship with the Romulan commander, after he assures her that Kirk is mad and acted without Starfleet authority, and she offers Spock the chance to be a starship commander in the Romulan Empire. Spock appears to consider this offer favourably.

McCoy beams over to treat Kirk. When Spock and the unnamed Romulan commander arrive, Kirk calls Spock a traitor and leaps at him. Spock reflexively gives Kirk the “Vulcan Death Grip” and McCoy declares him dead! This is the climax of the building mystery in the episode around why everyone is acting so strangely, and it makes the first half of the episode compellingly watchable. Apart form the sneaking suspicion that something must be up, the viewer is left in the dark, and the mystery is deliciously tantalising.

Back on the Enterprise, we learn that there is no such thing as a “Vulcan Death Grip” – Spock gave Kirk a variant of the nerve pinch to render him apparently dead. McCoy lets Nurse Chapel in on the secret – Kirk and Spock have been acting on Federation orders to sneak into Romulan space and steal a cloaking device, while planting false logs to give the Federation deniability and lay the blame entirely on Kirk if the mission goes belly up. This is the Federation we are supposed to see as the holder of impeccable moral standards in the Star Trek universe – one wonders what other black ops they are running without the knowledge of the citizens. This also means Spock has been lying through his teeth to the Romulan commander, despite him confirming to her that Vulcans are incapable of lying. This was also a bit odd to me, until I confirmed that canonically Vulcans can tell lies, if logic dictates that is an appropriate course of action. Spock’s duty to Starfleet outweighs his personal sense of honesty. But was it all a lie, or did he have feelings for the commander? This question is left dangling tantalisingly.

McCoy performs plastic surgery on Kirk to give him the appearance of a Romulan – apparently prosthetic technology in the 23rd century has devolved so far that they can’t mimic 1960s TV show special effects except by using plastic surgery. He beams back to the Romulan vessel and pretends to be one of the exchange hostages when a Romulan guard questions him – a ploy which works surprisingly well, demonstrating that the Romulans take their security about as seriously as Starfleet does. Kirk finds the Romulan cloaking device in a room, guarded by a single guard who he takes out with an amateurish kung fu move (again demonstrating the tissue-thin Romulan security). He unscrews the device and beams back to the Enterprise with it, where he asks Scotty if he can hook it into the Enterprise to cloak the ship. Scotty is justifiably dubious about the very possibility of this; Kirk gives him 15 minutes.

Kirk then beams Spock back, after Chekov identifies him from the Romulans with a sensor scan. Spock was, unfortunately, in the middle of recording a complete confession of Starfleet’s secret orders for the Romulan commander, as part of his last statement before being executed. In a wrinkle, the Romulan commander grabs Spock as he is being beamed away, and is now on the Enterprise. When Kirk opens communication with Tal, she orders him to destroy the Enterprise (with her on it). Kirk orders Warp 9 (the fastest the ship has gone under normal engine power so far, I think)! The Romulans pursue and are about to destroy the Enterprise (“in 12.7 seconds“), but 15 minutes have now passed and Scotty has soldered the device into the ship, and miraculously it works, apparently without requiring any sort of modification to the Enterprise itself, such as, say, cloaking field generators around the hull, or anything.

And so they make off with a grand prize – a Romulan cloaking device, which can now demonstrably be used in Federation starships. Except the Federation never uses this technology, in this or any other incarnation of Star Trek. So what was the point of the whole mission? And violating the Neutral Zone is an act of war – how did this mission not trigger all-out warfare between the Federation and the Romulans? These two gaping plotholes aside, this is not a bad episode. It’s very watchable and keeps you hooked throughout. Above average.

Tropes: Mad Lib Thriller Title, Chair Reveal, Samus Is A Girl, Force Field Door, Space Clothes, Duel Of Seduction, No Name Given, Face Palm Of Doom, Faking The Dead, Sealed Orders, Super Dickery, Cannot Tell A Lie, Was It All A Lie?, Dressing As The Enemy, We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future, Ludicrous Precision, Plug N Play Technology, Impossible Task Instantly Accomplished, Forgotten Phlebotinum.
Body count: None! Two episodes in a row! Is Season 3 going to be less lethal than 1 and 2?…

3 Responses to “Star Trek 3.2: The Enterprise Incident”

  1. graham says:

    Something can be technically an “act of war” without actually provoking a war. History is littered with examples – most relevantly to Star Trek, the cold war regularly involved military aircraft crossing in to enemy airspace.

    Can’t help with the cloaking device, though. Maybe it got pinched before star fleet could replicate it?

  2. Doug says:

    In regards to Romulans using Klingon ships, there has been quite a bit of post-series fiction dealing with this, not to mention various Star Trek wargames and roleplaying games.

  3. The Ridger says:

    “In 2311, with the signing of the Treaty of Algeron, the Federation explicitly agreed not to develop cloaking technology” per Memory Alpha. (I remembered that there was a treaty, but not the name.) One of the key developments in DS9 was the acquisition of cloaking technology on the Defiant, due to the threat from the Gamma Quadrant.

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